The skewed rationale behind the FDA's deferral of MSM is a reminder of the double standards inflicted upon LGBTQ individuals in American society. In addition to failing to meet the blood needs of potential transfusion recipients, a policy like this can also take a negative toll on the deferred population.
If men who have sex with men must be celibate for a year, then everyone else should be held to that standard too. If they can determine risk level for heterosexuals on a case-by-case basis, then they should do it for men who have sex with men as well. Assess the risk, test the blood, and treat everyone the same. It's really that simple.
On 9/11, after the towers fell to ash, I headed toward the New York Blood Center. I faced one of the most acute moral quandaries I've yet to confront: Do I lie about my identity to help my fellow brothers and sisters, or do I stay true to myself and know that the Red Cross would, by law, dispose of my blood?
Our 9-year-old son had come home excited that his school was having a blood drive. If we donated blood, we'd be rewarded with tickets to Legoland. As two dads, we suddenly found ourselves thrust into an unexpected conversation with our son about the FDA ban that prevents gay and bisexual men from donating blood.
I fear that marriage equality is a more palatable issue to discuss than the disproportionate impact of deadly violence for people of color, transgender women, transgender people of color and gay men. And it terrifies me that the idea of "ultimate victory" will leave some of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters behind.
On July 11 a National Gay Blood Drive will be held in the hope of raising awareness around this issue. Gay and bisexual men are urged to bring friends who can donate to blood banks to show just how much more potentially could be given -- up to 219,000 pints each year, according to a 2010 report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.